I have been on tour with Sam McCormally, a member of Ugly Purple Sweater, for the past four or so days. Not only does he have one of the sexiest and absolutely gorgeous voices I’ve ever heard, but he is also an amazing songwriter and guitarist. This tour was the perfect opportunity to collaborate with him. Funny enough, I think we’re somewhat similar when it comes to writing (both in the technical aspects and in a few of the little insecurities that tend to occur), so it was eye-opening and a totally fulfilling creative experience for me. If you haven’t heard of Ugly Purple Sweater, you need to have heard of them. Their writing is probably unlike anything you’ve heard. Their music is available at www.uglypurplesweater.bandcamp.com. (And if you want a recommendation, the song 2/3 Creatures is my personal favorite.)
I feel the writing of this song was fated to be with Sam. I started this song on accordion with a little lilting rhythm but only had the first verse and had no idea where to go from there. I loved it right away when it was born, but it is so emotionally close that I found myself procrastinating and sat on it for months and months. Jocelyn heard the 10 seconds of it I had written and has been persistent in me finishing the song. I put off even looking at it until last week and quickly pumped out a second verse, but I still got stuck. Yesterday, I took the first two verses to Sam, and we pounded out changes in the verse, a chorus progression, melody and a bridge even before coming up with lyrics. (It was Sam’s suggestion to put it into 5/8 time. Absolutely perfect.) According to Sam, he prefers to write music first, not lyrics, which is kind of foreign to me. For me, most of the time, lyrics and music are born within a few seconds of each other. We discussed a possible direction for lyrics, and he helped me find good color and intent. I absolutely loved working with him. Again, Sam?
The writing and recording took place in a friend’s bedroom in Baltimore, MD from about 4-9 pm (Right before our show!). You’ll hear extraneous sounds here and there throughout- the kind of which I’ve heard cellist Zoe Keating describe as “artifacts”. I like them- friends laughing downstairs, Sam’s breathing in the beginning, and even when I clear my voice before the first chorus. I would argue that the chorus melody was mostly designed by Sam, and I can even hear Ugly Purple Sweater in it, which makes me smile; another fantastic reason to collaborate is being challenged with another melodic idea that wouldn’t have come to you naturally or might not be the easiest to sing or play (damn those high descending lines!).
With the mic balanced on the top of my cello case, we put down guitar and vocals simultaneously, preferring the third take, I think. Sam’s vocals were laid down right after, though we redid them hours later because of an annoying buzzing. Cello and other vocals were over-dubbed later. This is yet another example of having to stop when I’d really rather not. I can easily hear, and had planned, bowed cello lines, but I just ran completely out of time. It’s obviously not perfectly engineered, but you’ll hear the intention, I hope. I’m frustrated with the hiss I’m hearing, but I have done my best to improvise with what I have. Hopefully, one day in the near future, we’ll be able to record this for real.
I really love this song. It was a very personal experience for me to see this song to such a high level in an amazingly short amount of time, and, to involve someone I deeply respect, makes me so grateful it happened this way. Love you, Sam.
A Thousand Thousands
instrumentation: guitar, cello, and Sam McCormally
And fifty dozens Here as I sleep, I’ll persuade you Print my fingers deep in your skull It’s a wonder that you feel it at all No doubt, no doubt at all That your mind is missing And when I smile, I smile for you Here as I sleep, I’ll persuade you Print my fingers deep in your skull It’s a wonder that I, that I feel it at all I met a man, an elephant man In a sea of a thousand thousands I’ve never cried your name so loudly